, Salem, MA

Local News

October 25, 2012

Finding Peabody's culture

City may lack Salem's amenities, but it's a work in progress


Down the street, Vince Michaels of A Little Bit of Everything: Pat’s Discount came to Peabody long after Brothers had departed, but he’s heard the stories about the place, a gathering spot for Peabody’s movers and shakers. The city never recovered from the loss, he says. “That’s what people tell me.”

His shop is full of odd treasures, from swords to medicines to batteries to toys, an eclectic inventory packed so you can scarcely turn around without knocking something over. It’s the type of place more often associated with Salem.

Michaels tilts his head at the notion that there’s a little bit of culture right here in his shop.

“There are no people,” he exclaims. He wonders why the city is enlarging the sidewalk when so few use it now. “I find that this town is not pro-business.”

Pointing, he salutes one of Peabody’s primary claims to culture, the Peabody Institute Library. Lots of people go in, Michaels says, but they seldom cross the street to visit his store.

If Michaels is the pessimist, his clerk, longtime resident Joan Morrissey, is the opposite. Pronouncing herself offended that anyone would question Peabody’s cultural relevance, she says, “I think we’re beginning to get more cultural things downtown.” She names the Peabody Cultural Collaborative and its building on Foster Street.

It should be noted that the city has museums on Washington Street, including the Elizabeth Cassidy Folk Art Museum, the Peabody Historical Society Museum and the George Peabody House/Leatherworkers Museum.

The library, meanwhile — a beautiful 19th-century monument to knowledge — houses rare, hand-colored prints from John James Audubon’s “Birds of America.”

Such attractions speak to Peabody’s remarkable history, but they’re not likely to draw young people looking for a bit of excitement. Accordingly, Morrissey finally concedes that Zaido is not far wrong.

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